On the 9th of September 2011, I stepped off the airplane at Gatwick Airport. I had made another Transatlantic journey – but this time, it was different. This time, I wasn’t on holiday or in transit: I was moving to a new country.
I’ve been a Londoner ever since. I’ve earned my Master’s and law degrees, I’ve met the man I’m going to marry, and I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in between – all here. And exactly five years later – on the 9th of September 2016 – I’m getting the keys to our new flat in Cambridge.
I spent a summer in Cambridge when I was 14 as part of a youth exchange programme. I guess you could say it’s the city that inspired me to emigrate to England in the first place. At the time, I may have dreamed of moving here, but I never really believed it would happen.
But it did. And I’ve been so incredibly fortunate to have a whole chapter of my life dedicated entirely to this city. And beyond the architecture and the history and the restaurants and the vibes are the Londoners themselves that have left an indelible mark on the atlas of my memory. On the one hand, I’ve met some amazing, wonderful friends – easily the smartest and kindest people I’ve ever known. On the other hand, I’ve learned a lot from the handful that hurt me.
And so this is my swan song by the Thames, a “farewell for now,” because we’re packing up home and moving north some sixty miles. It doesn’t seem so far away perhaps… J will still commute into the Big Smoke every day by train. But it’s a different England all together, a world of ancient colleges and impossibly green grass, wrapped up in a picturesque riverside walk called The Backs and threaded together by students criss-crossing town on rickety cycles.
In these five years, London has become to me a wooden keepsake box of curios and bric-à-brac: leather straps from a bag I bought in Notting Hill, perfumed paper from Covent Garden, a wax rose from Greenwich, and a wine cork from that night we had dinner at the Shard. There are tickets from the ballet and rock concerts, postcards from the Zoo and the Design Museum. There are a hundred slivers each of these days, like a glass dropped carelessly on the cobblestones, outside of some crowded pub, only to shatter and shine in the streetlight.
Cambridge, a city not yet mine, is a Matryoshka doll: secrets nestled inside secrets, each becoming less like the other with observation in time.